Bring on the Senators Leafs beat Isles but turn attention to playoff
pairing By Ken Campbell
Toronto Star Sports Reporter
UNIONDALE, N.Y. - The Maple Leafs went into last night's game with
slim hopes of finishing second in the Eastern Conference and came out
of it with a playoff date with the Ottawa Senators.
Right around the time the Leafs were putting the finishing touches on
what turned out to be a less-than-crucial 2-1 victory over the New
York Islanders, the Washington Capitals were celebrating a 4-2 win
over the Detroit Red Wings that ensured them at least second place in
the East and ordained the first-ever meeting between the Leafs and
Let the first-ever playoff Battle of Ontario begin, probably
If the Leafs, who finish their regular season tonight against the
Tampa Bay Lightning, are fearful of playing an Ottawa team that at
times utterly dominated them and captured the season series 3-1-1,
they are betraying their emotions. The Leafs should be buoyed by the
fact that over-all they were the better team in the regular season,
have infinitely better goaltending and the Senators have been even
more inconsistent than the Leafs down the stretch.
``We have a lot of experience from last year's playoff run and we
think we have a pretty strong year going here,'' said Leafs captain
``We've been waiting the last few weeks here for the playoffs to
and we're ready. It's going to be nice to start at home and we know
that if you want to win your conference you have to beat the good
``We anticipated this would be the likely result,'' said GM-coach Pat
Quinn. ``It'll be some fun, I hope.''
The Senators will start the series without Shawn McEachern, who goes
into tonight's game against the Montreal Canadiens leading them in
goals with 29.
He's not expected back from his broken thumb until at least Game 5,
while goalie Tom Barrasso, with a finger ailment himself, is
questionable. But judging by the way Barrasso played for the
Pittsburgh Penguins against the Leafs in last year's playoffs,
they'd be better off with Patrick Lalime.
Whoever starts the series, the Leafs carry a decided edge in
goaltending with Curtis Joseph carrying the load. Joseph, who will
start tonight against the Lightning, was not at all eager to talk
about the Senators last night.
``It'll be great for CBC,'' Joseph said. ``We're getting a real
rivalry going against those guys so it should be a great series.
They're not really a trap team, they're a skating team and we're a
skating team so it should be really exciting.''
Last night's game was not exactly meaningless, considering the fact
the Leafs needed a moral victory, too. They came into the game with a
two-game losing streak and a terrible record of late against the
bottom feeders of the league.
Igor Korolev and Steve Thomas scored for the Leafs and Vladimir
Orszagh replied for the Islanders in a game in which the Leafs landed
only 14 hits compared to 24 for the Islanders.
The scariest moment in the game came at the 15:37 mark of the second
period when Darcy Tucker, driving hard to the net, had his feet
from under him by Islanders' defenceman Ian Herbers. Tucker went
flying into Islanders goalie Kevin Weekes, who lay motionless for
several minutes before being carried off the ice on a stretcher. He
was moving his arms and fingers by the time he was taken to the
hospital and, when Tucker asked Islanders GM Mike Milbury after the
game about Weekes' condition, Milbury told him Weekes was all right
and for him not to worry.
``When you get your feet cut out from under you and you're in
there's nowhere you can go,'' Tucker said. ``I tried to get as far
away from him as I could. I knew I was going to hit the post and I
tried to make sure I took the brunt of the hit.''
The Leafs enter tonight's season finale with a chance to surpass the
franchise record for points (99) and hit the 100-point mark for the
first time in team history.